An Anecdotal Memoir
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CHICAGOLAND YOUTH FOR CHRIST
"Anchored to the Rock but Geared to the Times!"
Billy betrayed none of his fear. He spoke for twenty minutes and then gave an invitation for would-be converts to come forward. Hundreds responded. I was impressed.
In my hotel room afterwards, I couldn't sleep. In the morning, I called Toronto and arranged to hire Massey Hall every Saturday night for the next six months. It didn't occur to me that we might fail.
Youth for Christ was a phenomenon of the 1940s. Across the United States and Canada - and later, Europe - Saturday-night rallies of young people sprang up independent of the churches. The war had much to do with it. The major cities were filled with servicemen, many of them far from home and at loose ends on a Saturday night. The meetings were fun with a serious purpose. Most were held in secular auditoriums, and the emphasis was on informality. The music was more like community singing; rather than hymns, rhythmic gospel tunes and Negro spirituals were sung. Musical groups performed and, at the end, a youthful preacher gave a brief "sermon" that was really a religious talk in contemporary language. The thrust was evangelical and the emphasis was pietistic but the atmosphere was derivative more of show business than church.
From its beginning, Toronto youth for Christ was the largest of the more than one thousand weekly rallies in North America. Massey Hall was not available the first few weeks and we had to hold our meetings in the Old Elm Street church, but from our first week in the Hall, young people, 2600 strong, flocked to the rallies every Saturday night. We had little support from other churches for it was presumed, not unreasonably, that the meetings would increase attendance at Avenue Road Church. To minimize that, I sought out the Christian Businessman's Committee, an interdenominational laymen's organization, and put all financial matters in their hands. I took nothing for my services.
The music was professional. On a visit to London, Ontario, had discovered ashy, reed-thin sixteen-year-old pianist, Tedd Smith. I put him in charge of the music. He was extraordinarily gifted (in later years he joined Billy Graham's team, and, still later composed a rock opera) and he formed a number of musical groups: a youth choir, a vocal trio and a group of nine girls - chosen as much for their beauty a for their voices - called inappropriately, The youth for Christ Octette. The first cornetist in the Toronto Symphony formed a trumpet trio, and we featured frequent guests. A favourite was Tommy Ambrose, who became a well-known singer and composer of advertising jingles. His brother, Gus, led the singing and shepherded Tommy about, for he was only four when I first lifted him onto a chair so that he could reach the microphone. He belted out Negro spirituals with infallible pitch and an innate sense of rhythm; each time he sang, he brought the house down.
CJBC, the key station of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Trans-Canada network, put us on the air, broadcasting one hour of the rally, live from Massey Hall, every Saturday night. It was a great opportunity but it led to a serious problem.
Bob Keston, the station manager at CJBC, was a "take charge" sort of man, fast-talking and ebullient. I met him only once, not long after the inauguration of our weekly broadcast. One Saturday evening, at the close of the rally, the CBC technician who produced the program from Massey Hall told me that Keston wanted me to telephone him the following Monday. In his office at the Corporation's headquarters on Jarvis Street, Keston congratulated me on the rally and, after a brief conversation, asked if I would be interested in extending the broadcast coast to coast.
I could hardly credit what I was hearing. The network would enable us to extend the reach of Youth for Christ across Canada and, in the days before television, would provide an audience of millions.
"The entire network?" I asked, not yet believing it.
"From eight to nine Saturday nights, coast to coast."
"But what would it cost?"
"Nothing. Not a dime."
"No control over programming?"
"Of course not. Look, it's a good show and it's great radio. I want the country to hear it."
But there was a catch. As he walked me to the door, he said, "There is one thing. I'm sure you can understand that doing the broadcast will require the expenditure of a lot of time and energy by the producer and the engineer - they'll both be working on their day off, and so on. Can you see your way clear to spending twenty-five dollars a broadcast, not as a payment of course, but as a gesture of appreciation for the time and trouble necessary to make the broadcast perfect?"
I told him I didn't have any money.
He looked at me. "Charles, Charles....Do you have any idea what the time would cost if you had to buy it?"
I shook my head.
"Then think about it. Think of the mail the program will pull. Coast to coast, remember."
As we shook hands at the door, he added, "You understand, of course, that out little arrangement will have to be off the record. Just put the money in sealed envelope and give it to the producer before the show."
I left his office, stunned. As much as I wanted the increased audience, as much as I wanted to extend the influence of the rally, I couldn't accept his proposition. As I was leaving the building to drive to the airport (I had a speaking engagement in Los Angeles the following day), I ran into Don Sims. Sims was a staff announcer at the CBC, an adherent of Avenue Road Church, and would one day be named Ontario's film censor. I told him what had happened. He was almost disbelieving.
"There's only one thing to do", he said. "You’ve got to go right to Bush"(Ernest Bushnell, then Director General of the CBC). "He won't stand for that kind of hanky-panky for a minute."
But I decided to think it over during my absence from the city. I had no idea what the repercussions might be. And I was worried that I might end up losing the local broadcast. Back in Toronto, I asked Sims to arrange for me to speak to Reed Forsee, a senior producer. Forsee was visibly shaken. He questioned me at a length and asked my permission to take it up with his seniors. Nothing further was said to me, but not long afterwards, Keston resigned. We never did get the network.
Billy Graham came to Toronto to speak at out Youth for Christ rally and at the Avenue Road Church the following day. A movement was afoot to form Youth for Christ International and to send representative to Europe to found the movement there. Billy wanted the job of full-time employee for the new organization and asked me to help him get it. The following week at a founding convention at Winona Lake, a Christian campground in Wisconsin, I was elected one of three international vice-presidents and immediately moved that we hire Billy as our evangelist at large. The motion was carried unanimously. A team was selected to carry the message to Eurpoe. Torrey Johnston, as president, would lead the group. Billy and I would alternate as preachers, and a robust baritone named Stratton Shufelt would supply the music.
The movement was attracting fascinated attention from the news media. Life assigned a reporter and a photographer to follow us during the preparation for the trip. He took literally hundreds of pictures. William Randoph Hearst instructed his newspapers to give full coverage to our activities. There were articles in Time and Newsweek and by all the wire services. In Canada, there were major stories in Maclean's and most of the newspaper. Journalists from England and the continent interviewed us.
The Saturday prior to our departure, I invited Graham to Toronto for a "farewell rally." A thousand young people followed us from Massey Hall to union station, jamming the concourse, cheering and slinging in high-spirited melee. Billy and I had to climb onto the marble balustrades to speak to them.
At Chicago's O'Hare airport, hundreds of young people came by bus to see us off. A dozen reporters and photographers surrounded us on the way to the plane. Torrey suggested a prayer of dedication and, self-consciously, we all kneeled on the tarmac. It was Alice in Wonderland: Torrey on his feet, face upraised, bawling at God; the cameramen scuttling about or crouching low, seeking the best angles and shouting, "Keep prayin' fellas! That's it- hold it! Just one more prayer!" In the photographs it can be seen that Billy and I are having trouble restraining our laughter.
So, off to carry the gospel to benighted Europe.
The beginning was not auspicious. The plane, a DC-6, made a scheduled stop at Gander, Newfoundland, then a U.S. army base. The weather closed in and we were forced to stay overnight quarted in the officers' barracks. Torrey disappeared and returned electric with excitement to announce that we had been activities centre, a large Quonset structure used mainly as a movie theatre. We were elated at the news, not knowing that we would be appearing under false pretences.
Torrey Johnston was a born entrepreneur. He had a cherub's face with rosy kewpie-bow lips. His hair parted in the centre and fell in tight, dark waves. Torrey was a great talker, though not much of a preacher, and was as shrewd as a Yankee horse trader. I've never known him when he wasn't involved in some grand project or "deal," as he often called them And he made most of them work. Shortly after our arrival at Gander, he had been invited by the commanding Officer to his quarters and questioned about our groups. (The C.O. was not unaware that we were accompanied by a Hearst reporter.) Torrey's answers were ambiguous and the C.O. took it, perhaps from our flashy clothes, that we were entertainers. Nor did Torrey disabuse him.
"Are you with the USO?" he asked. "Something like that," Torrey conceded.
Billy and I, knowing nothing of the subterfuge, went for a walk under a lowering sky, grateful for the unexpected opportunity, which we saw as an indication of god's blessing on our European enterprise. Returning to the camp, we saw long lines forming outside the theatre and heard announcements about the meeting on the public-address system.
In a quick conference backstage it was agreed that I would act as a master ceremonies. Stratt Shufelt would sing a secular and then a religious song. Torrey would explain Youth for Christ's mission and Billy would preach.
Dressed in a Sports jacket and slacks and wearing a bow tie, I made an entrance onto the stage. The applause was deafening and laced with cheers and whistles. All the seats were taken; servicemen lined the walls, sat in the aisles and crowded on the floor below the stage. I told a few quick jokes and was cheered to the echo. I introduced Stratt. He did an up-tempo version of the Jacques Wolfetune, "Short'nin' Bread," to enthusiastic approval. I returned, told another couple of jokes to somewhat diminished applause, and then introduced "Dr. Torrey Johnston, president of Youth for Christ International! Let's hear it for Torrey...!"
Torrey walked out to face a puzzled audience. Trying to establish some rapport, he announced that he was from Chicago. "Anyone here from the Windy City?" A ragged show of hands. "Any Canadians?" he asked, identifying me as the Canadian. Silence. "Anyone from New York City?"
The booing began, interspersed with cries of, "Bring on the girls!" After a minute or two, Torrey abandoned whatever he had in mind made his exit, and I was back on stage. Shouting over the chaos, I brought on Stratt for his second song, "The Old Rugged Cross." Even with the microphone he was inaudible in the din. The crowd had turned ugly and was shouting and booing. Backstage, Torrey was saying, "Hey!- we're doing great. Go out there Chuck and introduce Billy. "I refused, but having no option, again faced the hooting mob. Billy gave it a valiant try but it was a lost battle.
The C.O. stormed into the dressing room, his face paper white, 60 and summoned Torrey to his office. Billy and I went for another long walk. As we went, we prayed, asking forgiveness for our egotism and our presumptuousness. We returned to find that we had narrowly escaped being thrown in the stockade. Only the importunities of the Hearst man, with his promise not to file the story, deflected the commandant's wrath.
In London we were into the Dorchester. It was and is one of the most expensive hotels in the city, frequented by wealthy foreigners, senior diplomats and second-echelon royalty. The committee of ministers and laymen who had invited us were shocked-British clergy are notoriously underpaid - as they had been by our casual attire and general informality. Billy and I were led by a bellman to a suite that seemed as big as a football field. We looked at each other, eyebrows raised, and began a tour of the rooms. Billy called out from the bathroom, "Chuck, come here." He was examining the bidet, turning the faucets, looping the spray. "What is this thing?" he asked.
Billy at twenty-eight was not far removed from the southern country boy he had been raised, and it was my conceit, at thirty, to think myself more sophisticated. I didn't confess my ignorance but offered what seemed a logical guess: "it's foot bath." The telephone rang. It was Torrey. "What's the extra thing in the bathroom?"
Billy replied with the lofty superiority of an initiate. "It’s for washing your feet. What'd you think?" We held meeting in London, York and Manchester, in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and across the Irish sea, in Dublin and Belfast. Everywhere we were greeted by overflowing churches and attentive audiences. Billy and I alternated as preachers. During the day, we met with committees and went sightseeing. Among a people spent by the long war, we were a curiosity and, I may say, a tonic. In loud-patterned sports jackets, slacks and bow ties, Billy, Torrey and I - six feet tall or better and imbued with overabundant energy - intrigued both the clergy and the people. In retrospect, I'm embarrassed at the thought of how brash we must have appeared, but our hosts welcomed it.
I remember only one negative note: Billy and I were on the street, walking to Edinburgh Castle. As we passed a sweet shop, we decided to buy some candy. It was a tiny shop. The proprietor was an aging Scot with a craggy face, great, thrusting eyebrows and a ruddy, seamed skin. "Where's your ration coupons?" he asked.
"Sorry," I said. "I didn't know we needed them. I'm from Canada. My friend here is from the United States."
He glared at us fiercely from beneath hi brows and then passed a candy bar to me. "Weel," he said blunty, "I've one for you, but none for your friend. I wouln'a gie a Yank a pinch o' salt."
On the continent we preached through interpreters, but it made no difference to our audiences - nor to us once we got the hang of it. In Stockholm, the crowds were in the thousands. At one meeting the Crown prince sat at my side on the platform - an aging man in a business suit, unpretentious and kind - and when I finished preaching, asked for my bible. On the first page he inscribed in a shaky hand: O. Bernadotte.
Billy and I had taken two days off in Copenhagen and were scheduled to join the others in Paris. We arrived a day early and wandered the streets, grateful that the city had not been pulverized as London had. Paris was thronging with Allied soldiers on leave and seemed a city of prostitutes. They paraded the main thoroughfares, soliciting openly. In civilian clothes, we were particular targets. On a daylight walk down the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe to our hotel we were accosted at least fifty times. The girls stood in front of us, impeding our progress, whispering. One threw open her fur coat to reveal that she was wearing nothing but a garter belt and stocking. Billy's face was grim. "Chuck," he said, "we've got to get out of here." We set off at a half trot, literally shoving the girls aside.
Inside the hotel lobby, laughing and breathless, I turned to Billy and said, saying it for both of us, "My Lord!"
That evening we went looking for a restaurant. We chanced upon an attractive and "very French" place. It had a fairly large room with a bar to one side, the tables arranged around a postage-stamp-size dance floor. A trio of blacks were playing American blues. We ordered Cokes and looked about. I'd told Billy not to worry about the menu; my high-school French would suffice. In fact, I was immediately at a loss when the waitress began to respond to my questions.
Two girls stopped at our table, and before we were quite aware of what was happening, joined us and ordered drinks. They were very young, not yet in their twenties, and quite beautiful. Neither spoke English. I tried to carry on a conversation but was soon at sea. Attempting a compliment, I said to one of them, "Vous avez tres beaux chevaux rouge." When they burst into laughter I realized that I had told her she had beautiful red horses, rather than beautiful red cheveux, hair.
Our meal came and we proceeded to eat it, two simultaneous conversations going on; Billy and I in English and the girls in French. As we paid the check, it became clear that they were planning to leave with us. I tired to make excuses but each had taken an arm and, as we emerged into the street, clutched tightly. My girl was pointing toward a massive apartment block across the street, Billy's was pulling him away. Over a shoulder, he gave me a despairing look. I grimaced and said, "Guess we'll have to walk them home." In truth, we didn't know how to extricate ourselves.
Inside the apartment building, a broad staircase led to the second floor. As we mounted the stairs- wanting to get out of my predicament but not sure how to-I spied a W.C. on the landing. I pointed and said, "Excusez." It occurred to me that I had wandered into danger and was at risk of being mugged. In the W.C. I looked for a place to hide my wallet; in it was all my money and identification. I stood on the toilet bowl, reached up and stashed it on top of the water chamber. As I emerged the girl was talking to a rough-looking man who turned and went quickly down the hall. She called out to me, "Viens ici." I shook my head, said, "Non, Non" and went down the stairs three at a time. Outside, I watched until I saw her come out and cross the street to the restaurant. I went back up the stairs, retrieved my wallet and returned to our hotel.
At the hotel, no Billy. An hour passed. When two hours had gone, I began to worry. I considered calling the police but realized that there was little I could tell them; I had no idea where he might be. Close to midnight, he burst through the door, panting, his face shining with perspiration, his hair dishevelled, his tie in a pocket, the collar of his shirt open.
He threw himself on the bed breathing heavily. "Chuck, you have no idea what's happened to me. I thought I was going to walk the girl home and the leave her, but she hailed a cab. We drove and drove and drove. Somewhere outside the city in a dark little suburb, the cabby stopped. He didn't speak any English, neither did she, and I couldn't understand what he was saying about the fare. I took the money from my wallet and held it out, expecting him to do what the London cabbies do- take what was his and leave the rest. He took it all.
"The girl had me by the arm and she led me toward this place where she lived. It was a dump. We got inside and she closed the door. I was trying to think of something I could say or do to let her know I was leaving. She went over to the bed, and without a word, unbuttoned her dress, tossed it aside and fell back on the bed. And Chuck, she was stark naked!
"I turned, opened the door and got out of there. In the street, I started to run. I don't know how far I ran; it could have been a mile or two. When finally I stopped, I looked around. I had no idea where I was. I was going to hail a cab, and then realized I didn't have any money. I asked some people the way to the downtown area but they just looked at me or rattled on in French. So I started to walk. I walked and walked and walked until I saw the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Then I knew where I was..."
Ever since, whenever I see Billy, especially when he is with others, I grin at him and say, "Hello Bill. How's the Midnight Runner?"In North America, Youth for Christ was growing at an almost explosive rate. Our Toronto rally and my responsibilities at Avenue Road Church kept me close to home, but I broke away for special occasions. One such occasion led to an almost comedic debacle.
Torrey Johnston had organized a Soldier Field rally in Chicago. Delegations from every city within three hundred miles were invited. The objective of filling the stand wasn't realized but some twenty-five thousand people were on hand on a blue sky summer day. I was invited for two reasons: to report on the European tour, and to present a midfield extravaganza.
The concept was this: As the memory of the war was fresh, and the consciousness of the atomic bomb acute, I would place a representation of an enormous open Bible at midfield, and at an appropriate moment during some special narration, would detonate a large quantity of flash powder, producing a great, white mushroom cloud. Coincidentally, a hundred white doves would be released from beneath the open Bible. They would rise, circle and fly off in all directions, “carrying the message of hope rather than destruction to all the world."
Problems arose. I wasn't able to travel to Chicago until the day of the rally, so I had to make the arrangements on the telephone. I was reassured by the manner of the assigned to carry out my plan; he was an enthusiast and seemed industrious. However, on arriving to check the arrangements at Soldier Field only a few hours before the crowd would gather, I discovered to my dismay that there were flaws in the preparations. First, the representation of the open Bible was much smaller than specified and it looked minuscule at the centre of the stadium. Second, my lieutenant hadn't been able to get one hundred white doves and had settled for fifty variegated pigeons. Further, he hadn't tracked down any flash powder and had settled for - I couldn't believe it! - a Very pistol.
There was no option but to go ahead. Not now trusting my aide, I hid myself beneath the Bible with a young lad I had dragooned. His responsibility was to open the crates full of pigeons. Torrey introduced the spectacle with ringing words. A one - thousand-voice choir and a fifty-piece orchestra began the background music that would culminate in the "Hallelujah" chorus, while I, microphone to my lips, my voice booming in the vast stadium, began the narration.
Came the climactic moment. The music mounted. I intoned: "Even as the Doomsday detonation of the Bomb sounds its message of horror and destruction around the world...."I fired the Very pistol, which made a pathetic pop and descended in a thin trail of smoke."...the Christian church sends its message of faith... and hope... and peace to every corner of the globe...!"
I had impressed in the lad who was to release the pigeons that it was essential they emerge together from beneath the open Bible. But when he threw open the tops of the crates, they didn't move. "Get them out, for God's sake!" I shouted, forgetting to turn off my microphone. The boy, in his zeal to do his job well, began to dip into the crates, literally hurling handfuls of birds into the air. A cloud of feathers emerged from beneath the Bible, followed by puffs of pigeons. A pitiful few flew of in various directions. Many wouldn't fly, but landed on the grass and staggered about, dazed and half naked. The choir sang, Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
There were other mass meetings. I flew to California to speak to fifty thousand at an Easter Sunrise service in the Rose Bowl, to Detroit for a rally at the Olympia, to Los Angeles at the Shrine Temple, to the St. Louis Auditorium and elsewhere. In the mean-time, we were planning our first Maple Leaf Gardens rally.
I will confess to a moment of doubt when I went to confirm the arrangements in the arena in which I had covered so many sports events. I stood at centre ice and pivoted on a heel, looking them all, and felt a tremor of trepidation. In truth, I never really doubted that we could do whatever we set our minds to. Part of that confidence was a conviction that God was with us; it was also the reckless, uncontemplating daring of youth.
Much of what we did was, of course, show business. Spectacle. The thousand-voice choir was dressed in white except for a specified number in black forming a cross at the centre. There were five grand pianos, an international pageant in full costume, vocal soloists, our trumpet trip, the Octette and to climaz it all, Connie's "The Lord's Prayer". Five -year-old Tommy Ambrose - so tiny at the heart of that vast assemblage - piped "Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones." The platform party, which included Mayor Robert Saunders, entered the pitch-dark arena in a blaze of spotlights. There were congratulatory telegrams from various parts of the world, a floral cross nine feet high and free souvenir programs. The speaker was Charles E. Fuller, a sixty-year-old radio preacher from California, who seemed oddly anachronistic.
We held a second Gardens rally the following year. The speakers were Torrey Johnston and Billy Graham, who was not yet well known. For Christian young people, the Gardens rallies were pop extravaganzas; they were participating in something larger than life surrounded by thousands of their fellows, all holding a common faith, they found tangible justification of their religious commitment. An invitation came from William Randolph Hearst to spend a weekend with him at his private and fabled Xanadu at San Simeon, California. It was very tempting. Hearst was one of the great buccaneers of American Journalism. His nationwide chain of newspapers not only reported the news, but manipulated, and of necessary, fabricated it. The Hearst press and the term "yellow journalism" were synonymous.
It is not surprising that Hearst decided to take Youth for Christ under his wing. It was his ideal subject: it was American, conservative, the religion of the common people and, in some expressions, anti-communist.
I went to Seattle, Washington, for a Saturday-night rally. There were no more than twelve hundred present and nothing exceptional happened. But a Hearst photographer prowled back- stage, in the wings and in the theatre, shooting picture after picture. After the meeting, I spent an hour with two reporters. The following morning the Post Intelligencer gave the meeting three pages of coverage: pictures, interviews and colour stories.
Hearst was seventy-nine at the time, somewhat enfeebled and grown reclusive. He spent most of his time at his retreat on a mountain by the coast, surrounded by tons of European and other antiquities. The idea of spending a weekend amid that baroque extravagance as the guest of one of the most notorious of press lords had us squirming with delight. But we knew we dare not go. It would become known and even if we rejected any offer of support, we would be suspected of being his creatures.
Some years later, Hearst made another gesture: Billy had gone on his own, apart from Youth for Christ, to conduct a campaign in a great circus tent in Los Angels. On the closing Sunday, as he later recounted, "I suddenly saw reporters and cameramen crawling all over the place." He caught the eye of one of the reporters and asked what was happening. He was told that an edict had come down from Hearst: "puff Graham." The following day, Billy was front-page news in all the Hearst papers. The legend is that Hearst acted after one of his housemaids enthused about what was happening in the big tent.
Seizing the opportunity, the Los Angeles committee extended the meeting for one week and then for another. Various celebrities began to attend; some were converted. Crowds overflowed the site. Other media added their voices and, before the campaign ended, Billy Graham and his message were being heralded from coast to coast and beyond.
In the months following our return form Europe, I had been fighting a losing battle with my faith. I had been so frenetically busy that there had been little time to take stock. But in the occasional quiet moments, questions and doubts surfaced. There was a shallowness in what we were doing in youth for Christ, a tendency to equate success with numbers. There seemed to be little concern with what happened to the youngsters who responded to our appeals? If the afterservice dragged on, we tended to get impatient, wanting to wrap things up and get back to the hotel or to a restaurant for our nightly steak and shop talk. Billy, too, was troubled by it, and we talked about it many times. It undoubtedly contributed to his move from youth for Christ to conduct his own campaigns.
But my dilemma was of a different kind. I was discovering that I could no longer accept many of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. I had been converted as an incredibly green youth of nineteen. I had only a grade-nine education and hadn't the intellectual equipment to challenge the concepts advanced by my friends and mentors. I wanted very much to believe: there was in me then as there remains now an intense, inchoate longing for a relationship with God. In the beginning, I accepted the beliefs of the people around me, but I read widely in every spare minute: on planes and trains and in bed. Slowly - against my will- for I could perceive the jeopardy - my mind had begun to challenge and rebut the things I belived.
It may be useful to set down what fundamentalists believe. There is some variance, of course but, by and large, theirs is a simple world of certainties in which the church is centre and circumference. For most, the King James version of the Bible is the rock on which all of life and history is built. It is God's Word, without error and accepted without question. It teaches fundamentalists that, in approximately 4000 B.C., God created the world in five days. On the sixth day, he created Adam and Eve and placed them in a paradise called the Garden of Eden. They sinned (the sin is commonly believed to be of sexual nature), and as a consequence, God cured them and their descendants so that all people are "born in sin."
"The Devil is real enemy, and is everywhere present, "seeking whom he may devour". Fundamentalists believe that God destroyed the world, saving only Noah and his family and two (or seven) of each species; that He personally delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses, that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and that Gideon made the sun "stand still in the heavens."
They believe that Jesus of Nazareth is Almighty God and the third person of the Trinity; that a virgin was impregnated by the Holy Ghost and thus brought him to birth; that all his miracles are fact; that having been executed by the Romans and buried, he rose from the grave and ascended to heaven; that he will return to earth "in clouds of glory" to rule the world for a thousand years; that the wicked (those who have not been "born again" including all Roman Catholics, most members of conventional churches and all the millions who follow other religions) will be banished to "outer darkness", a place of endless mental and physical anguish where there will be "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth". "Born-again" Christians will live and eternal life of unalloyed bliss, ruling with Christ on earth for a thousand years, and forever in a heaven where the streets are paved with gold.
I never believed all of this (the Genesis account of creation, for instance, or the monstrous evil of an endless hell), but I did accept most of these doctrines and lived by them fervently. And now the entire fabric was coming apart.
Canon Arthur Chote of Anglican church in Toronto is one of the finest human beings I know. I met him in the early days of Youth for Christ and, one Saturday night I asked him to speak briefly to the young people about his faith. A very tall, good-looking man, he instructed pilots at the Hagersville airport under the Commonwealth Air Training Plan and was impressive in his uniform. We became friends, especially after the woman he later married was moved by a sermon I preached at a tiny mission hall on Broadview Avenue to become a committed Chritian. Art reciprocated by visiting the sick and aged in my congregation, refusing to accept any remuneration.
In the early spring of 1948 he was studying for the ministry at Wycliffe College. He came to see me in my study and, in his quiet direct way, startled me by saying that, if I wanted to continue to be useful in the ministry, I should quit preaching and return to school. I listened in disbelief. I was thirty-three and had only grade nine; how could I possibly go back to school? What would happen to the church and Youth for Christ and the dozen other projects I was involved in? Suppose I did return to school, what assurance was there that, even after years of study, I would ever again be as useful?
I remained alone for hours-brooding, appraising, praying. I knew what Art had only sensed: that my faith was disintegrating. I realized that I lacked the intellectual training to deal with the question that were beleaguering and debilitating me. If I continued as I was going I would soon be a hollow shell, a hypocrite mouthing what I no longer believed. Late in the evening I decided that, for all the dislocation it might cause, I must return to school.
At the suggestion of Jim Mutchmor, the former head of the Department of Evangelism and Social Service in the United Church, I applied for admittance to Princeton Theological Seminary. The seminary, and historic institution, is located in Princeton New Jersey and is part of an academic community that includes Princeton University and the renowned Institute for Advanced Study. Back came a letter from the dean, pointing out that the seminary was a graduate school and that among the requirements for admittance was a bachelor degree from an accredited university. If I would complete my high-school work and earn a B.A he would be happy to consider my application.
I wrote him, asking if I might present my case to the president. The meeting would have been in vain had it not happened that, on the day I arrived, the speaker at morning chapel was Dr. George Pidgeon then Moderator of the United Church of Canada. After the service, Dr. John Mackay, the president of the seminary, mentioned that a young man from Toronto by the name of Templeton was coming the see him later that morning, seeking to be admitted. Pidgeon expressed surprise but said, “I know Templeton, or rather, I know his work. If he wants to return to school, do what you can to help him."
I met with Dr. Mackay for an hour. He asked me a number of theological questions and ended by saying drily, "Much room for thinking there." He then informed me that I would be admitted as a "special student"; I would be required to do the three year's work for a Th.B. and to write all the examinations, but would not be granted the degree as I did not have the prerequisites.
I returned to Toronto and notified the church that I was leaving. It was a sad and teary time. On my final Sunday night, when everyone else had gone, I returned to the sanctuary. It was dark except for the shifting patterns of light from the street and silent except for the muted sound of traffic. I stood in the pulpit for the last time. Seven years had passed since I first stood there. A hundred memories flitted before my eyes. I knew that I was standing at a watershed.
In late August 1948,just before I enrolled at Princeton, I flew to Montreat, North Carolina, to speak at a conference and to spend a day with Billy and Ruth Graham. Theirs is a marvellous house. It is secluded on the slope of a heavily treed mountain at the end of winding road built by the governor as a tribute from the state. The house is constructed of great adze-hewn timbers salvaged from old barns in the area. The ceilings are high; the rooms are spacious and bright with sunlight. The stone fireplace in the living rooms is large enough to walk into.
Billy and I talked long about my leaving Youth for Christ. Both of us knew that, for all our avowed intentions to keep our friendship alive, our feet were set on different paths. He was as distressed as I was. We both knew that I was not simply giving up Youth for Christ, I was leaving fundamentalism.
We had often discussed our beliefs, meeting from time to time to talk and share experiences. Once, we spent two days closeted in a hotel room in New York City, exchange experiences, discussing the Bible and theology, and praying together.
Our backgrounds were radically different. Billy was a country boy, raised on a farm in the American South in a deeply religious household. He had been converted and called to the ministry in his teens and had studied in fundamentalist schools; at Bob Jones College and at Wheaton, where he had earned a B. A. in anthropology. All our differences came to a head in a discussion which, better than anything I know, "explains" Billy Graham.
I had said. "But Billy, it's not possible any longer to believe the biblical account of creation. The world wasn't created; it has evolved over millions of years. It's not a matter of speculation, it's demonstrable fact."
"I don't accept that," he said, "And there are reputable scholars who don't."
"Who are they?" I said. "Men in conservative Christian colleges?"
"Most of them, yes. But that's not the point. I believe in the Genesis account of creation simply because it's in the Bible. I've discovered something in my ministry: when I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as God's Word, I have power. When I stand before the people and say, 'God says,' or 'The Bible says, 'the Holy Spirit uses me. There are results. People respond. Wiser men than you or I have been arguing questions like this for centuries. I don't have the time or the intellect to examine all sides of each theological dispute, so I've decided, once and for all, to stop questioning and to accept the Bible as God's Word."
"But Billy," I protested, "you can't do that. You don't dare stop thinking. Do it and you begin to die. It's intellectual suicide."
"I don't know about anybody else, "he said, "but I've decided that that's the path for me."
We talked about my going to Princeton and I pressed him to go with me. "Bill," I said, "face it: we've been successful in large part because of our abilities on the platform. Part of that stems from our energy, from our conviction, from our youth. But we won't always be young. Come with me to Princeton.
"I can't go to a university here in the States," he said. "I'm president of a Bible college, for goodness sake!" He was-North- western Bible College, a small fundamentalist school in Minneapolis.
"Resign", I said. "That's not what you're best fitted for. Come with me to Princeton."
There was an extended silence. Then, suddenly, he said, "Chuck, I can't go to a college here in the states, but I can and I will do this: if we can get accepted at a university outside the country, maybe in England-Oxford, for instance - I'II go with you."
He stood in front of me, his face serious, his hand outstretched. I know Billy enough to know that, had I taken his hand, he would have kept his work. But I couldn't do it. I had been accepted at Princeton. The fall term was not three weeks away. It was too late.
Not many months later, Billy travelled to Los Angeles to begin the campaign that would catapult him overnight into international prominence. I have often pondered what might have happened if I had taken his hand that day and we had gone off to school together. I am certain of this: he would not be the Billy Graham he has become, and the history of mass evangelism would be different than it is.
In the spring of 1957,just prior to my leaving the ministry and returning to Canada, Billy Graham came to New York City for his first Madison Square Garden crusade. I was still living in Manhattan, and on a whim, telephoned Billy simply to say hello. He insisted that I come to his hotel room so that we could talk. We spent two or three hours together, remembering good times, bringing each other up to date on what had been happening.
By late afternoon he had to prepare for the evening meeting. He let me leave only after he had exacted a promise that I would attend the service that night and sit with him on the platform.
"Bill," I said, "I don't think that would be wise. I've just left the ministry. I'm an agnostic."
But he wouldn't let me beg off. "What harm can it do?"
That evening, I went to Garden and made my way backstage. Again, I tried to back out, but Billy hooked and arm in mine and we went out on the platform before the twenty thousand people gathered there.
Early in each service, it is Billy's practice to say a few preliminary words, to welcome special delegations, perhaps to comment on the campaign's financial needs. This night, in the course of his remarks, he suddenly made reference to me. While his associates squirmed, he told the congregation how pleased he was to have with him on the platform one of his dearest friends. He spoke of our first meeting in Chicago, of our campaigning together and of our long association. Then, to my alarm and dismay, he concluded by saying, "If you'll bow your heads, I'm going to ask my old friend, Charles Templeton, to lead us in prayer."
I knew what he was doing. He is warm and loving man, and there is about him an astonishing naïveté. He hoped and half believed that if I attended the meeting and sat on the platform I would be stirred by profound and pleasant memories and nudged toward God by the familiar ambience. I rose and walked to the pulpit, my mind in tumult. What should I do? I could not embarrass Billy and everyone present with a stuffy explanation as to why I couldn't lead them in prayer, but neither could I involve myself in a charade.
As the audience bowed their heads, I raised mine, eyes wide, and extemporized a brief homily on the need to come to terms with one's self and on the importance of trying to understand the motives, attitude and actions of others. I returned to my seat amid a pall of silence. I had not mentioned God nor concluded with Amen. All those thousands of people knew that a wrong note had been struck.
Stephen Olford, an English member of the Graham team was there. He was later quoted in a book on Graham: "Billy and chuck spent several hours talking in a hotel room. It left Billy so rattled and shaken he could barely preach that night. He literally had to struggle through his message. I think it was because he knew Chuck was there."
As was inevitable, Billy and I drifted apart. We talked on the telephone and got together from time to time, but with the years, the occasions became fewer. I was managing editor of the star when, one afternoon, he called to say he was in the city and would like to have dinner at my home; he wanted to meet my wife and children, and to spend a long evening talking.
My four children, who have never quite accommodated themselves to the fact that their father was once an evangelist, found Billy a curiosity. I have always encouraged them to challenge ideas, to question, to express their own views. Bradley, the second of my three sons, was about ten at the time and precocious. He had just been admitted to full membership in the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and was full of data and theory bout the nature of the universe. With characteristic directness he broke into the dinner-table conversation.
"Mr. Graham, you're a preacher-right?"
"Yes," Billy said, smiling, "that's right."
"Therefore you believe that God created the world in six days?"
Billy's smile broadened. "Well now, Bradley, many preachers don’t believe that, but as a matter of fact, I do."
Bradley fixed him with a scornful eye and said, "But how can you possibly do that? We know how the earth was formed - by the mutual attraction and cohesion of galactic dust millions of years ago. How can you possible believe - "
"Bradley!" I said sharply. he subsided, shaking his head in exaggerated astonishment.
After dinner, Billy talked at length about Richard Nixon, with whom he had become friends. Billy has always been given to enthusiasms - as have I - but this was a greater one than usual. He emphasized that Nixon had come to the presidency better prepared than any of his predecessors. That argument can be made, and he made it cogently, but after the first few minutes it didn't interest me. My attitude to Nixon had been jaundiced from the time of his" Checkers speech," in which he defended himself against charges of misusing campaign funds and made cloying references to his dog, checkers, and to his wife's "Republican cloth coat."
Billy's recital of Nixon's virtues - understandable, as he had just come from an overnight stay at the White House-began to irritate me. I wanted to take issue with some of his assertions but didn't want to cool his zeal or fall into confrontation. It was obvious as the evening wore on that the years had taken us to almost diametrically oppose viewpoints on many things. We saw world events, books, manners, morals and other subjects for conversation so differently that there was little ground for concurrence.
When the evening ended-earlier than we had planned-and I drove him downtown to his hotel, the conversation became desultory. I was very sad on the way back to Mississauga.
Marshall Frady in his book, Billy Graham, quotes Billy as saying:
"I love Chuck to this very day. He's one of the few men I've ever loved in my life. He and I had been so close. But then, all of a sudden, our paths were parting. He began to be a little cool to me then. I think - " and he pauses, and then offers with a faint little smile" - I think that Chuck was always sorry for me."
Of course that wasn't and isn't true; we had simply become different men. I think Billy is what he has to be. I disagree with him profoundly on his view of Christianity and think that much of what he says in the pulpit is puerile nonsense. But there is no feigning in him: he believes what he believes what he believes with an invincible innocence. He is the only mass evangelist I would trust. And I miss him.